Monday, April 6, 2009

Men are dense - go figure.

ResearchBlogging.orgIf you've ever been interested in a guy and tried to subtly hint that you like him, you know exactly how dense men can be. The fresh research from Bucknell University doesn't tell you anything new.

The study, in press in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, has found that men are a bit thick when it comes to opening lines. If you want to flirt, it's best to be direct with them - go figure.

The researchers noted that previous research had looked into what pick-up lines or conversation starters worked best for men trying to date women. Women preferred lines that displayed personal qualities and cultural accomplishments and responded worst when the guy directly requested sex or used sexual humor. Considering the different approaches men and women often take to dating, the researchers wondered what differences there might be if the roles are reversed. What opening lines work best to chat up a guy?

So they asked 40 women for things they have said or would say to a man to indicate to him that they are interested in dating or spending time with him. The lines fell into 10 opening line categories: directly asking on a date, hinting at a date, statements of commonalities, insistence on calling or giving of a phone number, compliments, directly asking about relationship status, statements of personal interest, sexual humor, questions of familiarity, and saying a subtle “hello”. They then took the list and tried them out on 38 women and 32 men, asking the participants to rate how effective the lines would be.

The men, go figure, preferred direct lines which asked them on a date, followed by giving phone numbers. Unlike the women, however, sexual humor didn't fall to the bottom of the list. The worst way to try to get a date? Being subtle. Subtle "hellos" like smiles or saying "How's it going?" scored the lowest, followed closely by statements of familiarity like "Do I know you from somewhere?"

Not shockingly, the women thought that their subtle cues would do better than they actually would. Women thought that giving their phone number would not go over very well, when the men actually preferred it second only to directly asking about a date. In fact, the women thought the best way to chat up a guy was to talk about common interests - which men placed 5th. Basically, women think men will respond to the same things they respond best to - the men think differently.

Men prefer women to be direct. Even saying something like "Your shirt matches my bedspread, therefore you belong in my bed" works better than just saying "Hello" or "How are you?" Men, it seems, like things to be overwhelmingly obvious. The research, however, didn't look into the reasons behind their preference. I personally think it's because men simply don't pick up on subtle cues. They need to be beat over the head with things. That could just be my own opinion, of course...

Really, though, the fact that men don't respond well to subtlety isn't that surprising. What is surprising is that so many women haven't figured this out already.

Joel Wade, T., Butrie, L., & Hoffman, K. (2009). Women’s direct opening lines are perceived as most effective☆ Personality and Individual Differences DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2009.02.016


Anonymous said...

or, men just don't see the point of subtlety. what reason is there for it?

Anonymous said...

I can, of course, only speak for myself, but I'd say that I pick up sublety just fine. The reason it needs to be direct is that however clear the subtle hinting may be, the risk of having misunderstood the situation nevertheless means that acting on it is putting yourself in a vulnerable position.

Anonymous said...

The idea that a 'Subtle "hellos" like smiles or saying "How's it going?" ' or 'statements of familiarity like "Do I know you from somewhere?" ' are indicative of interest is pretty ridiculous, from a mans point of view. Do women really think that every man who says Hello is trying to pick you up? By extension, what if I smile at a child - does that smile make me a pedophile?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if one is emotionally hypersensitive then open communication, however gentle, can be overwhelming.

For those used to reading between the lines between the lines, perhaps an actual statement is a shocking and brazen form of communication.

Consider the possibility that men think courting to be an inappropriate place for such social tools. Men certainly use sensitivies to subtly in situations when they are looking for information that an adversary doesn't want to reveal.

But, why would one treat one's friends with the suspicion required to justify taking their comments at other than face value? This style of attention is best focused on people whose honesty you have reason to doubt, not those with whom you wish to be open with.

As man, my reaction is: show some respect and don't be so damn rude.

Anonymous said...

Something that seems to be missing here is that women are less likely to take risks in these kinds of situations.

When a guy says "let's go on a date" he's made his intention clear. This also means that he's put himself out there to be shot down.

Women on the other hand are much more insecure and at the same time egotistical. If you say "hello" to someone you could always just argue that you are being civil or friendly. That way when/if you get rejected you can claim you never actually wanted that person's attentions anyway.

martin said...

Self preservation - there's a reason for you. Women so often play games and lead men on. The results of this survey aren't in the least bit surprising. Men aren't dense, but they are often proud, and wish to keep their dignity intact. It's not "subtle", it's "vague".

The Backstreet Boys had it right - Quit playing games with my heart!

Anonymous said...

Could be that subtlety shows a lack of confidence as well. Men and women are attracted to confidence, Men more so now than ever.

I think most men also enjoy seeing women making the first step as opposed to forcing them to make the direct approach by "being subtle".

Stephanie B said...

Wow, lots of angst here. Ha, I'm a woman and will not only endorse that reading (men are dense) but will reinforce it by adding that women are difficult. Since neither is intended but simply falls out of how they deal with things, no sense getting one's knickers in a twist. (In fact, I toyed at one time with writing a pair of books entitled: Why are men so dense? Why are women so difficult?

As for men putting it out there, you're right. And women will take their turn as soon as nature and society stop giving them 95% responsibility for the inadvertent results. When men start having to figure out what to do with their inadvertent pregnancy, I don't doubt the tables will turn.

Choosiness in females is all but universal in the world of animals. Since people are supposed to be intelligent, creative and subtle courting is likely to do well with women. Men, who logically would welcome a situation where they don't have to guess what women are thinking, undoubtedly favor forthrightness.

As always, of course, with stereotypes, actual results may vary. What's to get upset about?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we guys see the subtle clues but are not quite sure if they're subtle clues or just run-of-the-mill friendliness. If the clues are coming from someone you work with then the social cost of misinterpreting can be too high. So it's best just to let things go and have lots of female friends.

Another thing I've noticed is that if there are 2 or 3 women who hang out together, you typically get one shot at the lot. So you'd better know which one is interested in you and pick right. Otherwise you end up looking like a guy who asks everyone out. And that's not so good.

Allie said...

Hmmm...how similar to our recent discussions. Feels like I just lived this...OH WAIT, I did! haha

marc said...

most women don't want to take charge of a situation, they want to be taken/lead. So they will put the subtle ques out there in the hopes that the man will pursue and take her.

This makes sense because in the cave man days a women had to be a supreme diplomat. She was totally dependent on the male's strength for protection and survival, and she had to make sure she was safe in case her man was killed or rejected by the tribe.

By acting subtly, and having the guy take the big risks and make the moves, she has plausible deniability. For example, in the case of infidelity, she would never be to blame because the new male 'took her'.

That evolution continues on today even though our society has changed. Some men have become effeminate, afraid to take a girl. Some women have become dominant, bossing thier males around.

This results in alot of confusion because the classic male/female roles are being blurred. In my experience, the classic roles are still very powerful in each of us, and people seem happiest and most functional when they act in accordance with those basic roles.

kormgar said...

I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb here and say that it has nothing to do with a man's ability to pick up on subtle clues.

For the most part men are still expected to be the risk takers in the dating realm, the ones who have to make the first approach, the ones who are expected to open themselves to rejection in the pursuit of love.

In light of this, is it any surprise that we prefer our sexual signals to be plastered in front of us with 20 foot high letters? Take a look at the 'subtle' cues in the list. They're not just subtle, they're traps as well...by themselves they could mean the woman is interested, or she could just be making conversation. Sure, flirtatious body language might telegraph her intentions, but plenty of folks are just naturally flirty.

So even with a gigantic pile of clues, the guy still needs to put his ego on the line and take a risk. It's much easier, instead, if the girl simply gives us her number.

Of course, then she might just seem a bit desperate, because the universe isn't fair at all.

Christie Lynn said...

Wow. Just for the record - meant the dense comments in semi-jest. Let's be real guys - you don't always pick up on what a girl is trying to convey. I'm not saying you're all stupid, ignorant jerks.

Unless, of course, you are, but that's a personal problem :).

You boys get so defensive! Don't worry. Us girls are as much to blame, if not more, for any poor communication between the genders. After all, it's the women who seem to think that the subtle cues are going to get the point across. I mean, we're a little dense if we haven't figured out you guys like the direct approach more.

hans said...

Defensive? Angst?

Well missy, guess whose life is ruined by a false rape charge, and whose anonymity gets protected by the law, even if it´s proven she lied.

It´s a matter of f#chking survival cupcakes. And it´s the feminist women AND men that have pushed it this far.

ballixPloeger said...

It's easy-- a woman can be 'subtle', lead a man on, and then deny that she ever meant anything by her 'subtle' remark, leaving him to deal with her fickleness.

A good man might ignore you until you're willing to be straight with him.

Paul said...

Isn't there a distinction between subtle and ambiguous? For instance: In many circumstances, "Hello" is ambiguous. I think to fairly test the density of males, one would need to somehow test subtle but unambiguous lines on them.

Other than that, I pretty much agree with Stephanie -- In most species, the female makes a greater investment in reproduction than the male, hence it makes sense for her to be choosier.

Sandman said...

Men are dense?

Fk that. Women are dense for thinking that SMILING or saying HELLO to a man should cue him into showing interest.

Because women SMILE and say hello to me ALL day long. Do they all want to fk me?

yes. But thats not the point.

Men aren't dense. They just hate bullshit and womens lives appear to revolve completely around bullshit and beating around the bush instead of just getting the damn job done.

LUCKY said...

I wonder if this has anything to do with if a person is brought up in a home where people often drop hints. One of the greatest diffrences between my wife and I are that she grew up around hint droppers and I didn't. So the little hints she drops I sometimes don't get and then get in trouble. However I don't think this is unique to gender and would be reversed if my wife had not grown up in a hint dropping home. Overall its just alot easier to be strait foreward and not beat around the bush and waste time. Just come right out with what you want or desire.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Lucky. My girlfriend will ask a yes/no question and when I say yes, she'll assume that I really mean something else or vise-versa. She grew up in a household of hint droppers as well. I have to remind her that when I tell her something, I mean what I say, not something else...aggravating!